Why intellectual property should be a key factor in IT procurement decisions for universities

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Mark Britton
by Mark Britton 11 March 2019

Faced with the many different pressures that an increasingly interconnected world relying on data and digital systems involves, it’s no wonder that today’s universities are facing many IT challenges.

With this in mind, any system needs to be fit for purpose to deal with these increasing demands, and the capability to adapt to those of the future. And this is precisely why universities investing in what they believe to be the latest in technology need to be aware of the issues surrounding intellectual property (IP).

Why IP matters

Within the IT landscape today, large systems – such as those typically found within universities – often heavily rely on licenced software that entails a large element of "managed IP".  This ties the university into the software provider, and also means there will be restrictions on what they can and cannot do with their IT systems.

This isn’t a great situation to be in considering how agile universities need to be, both in terms of being adaptable and responsive to changes within the student landscape, and the fact that they’re often working to tight budgets.  Most universities have been forced to evolve to the point of becoming commercial organisations, vying to attract and retain students in a hugely competitive environment. At the same time, universities also need to invest in their capital assets - from buildings and infrastructure to IT systems - that support the push towards digital transformation, all while trying to keep costs to a minimum.

So, in the face of these challenges, why is IP such an important consideration for universities? Put simply, any organisation with a fully managed IP software ecosystem in place may not be allowed to add on any additional software as bolt-ons or, when they want to upgrade, they are invariably tied in to their vendor to manage that upgrade, often with a hefty additional price tag.

The consequences of managed IP

These constraints can mean that universities are less able to keep up with shifting trends on how software, platforms and apps are used to reach and engage with their audiences – a vital component in the success in evolving landscape of universities today.  Furthermore, restricting software also runs the risk of leading to shadow IT – where staff install their own software in order to fulfil their IT requirements.  

In a nutshell, universities with a fully managed IP system become tied-in to that company’s product development and have to rely solely on how that company is keeping their solution up-to-date in terms of regulatory changes and market developments. Upgrades and customisable additions present even more of a headache.

A different approach

And this is where Crimson’s approach is different. Crimson works with universities as a trusted partner, working on the model of empowering and enabling universities to have their own independence, their own support and their own capability to do things – and at the same time having a company whose expertise they can rely on to help maintain their IT systems and keep them up to date to meet the challenges in a rapidly changing education landscape. Crimson achieves this by working with individual universities, carrying out gap analysis and requirements gathering and then providing them with an accelerated solution.  Crucially, solutions offered are configurable, adaptable, and flexible, only using ‘managed IP’ when it is a necessary part of a business process within the university’s IT ecosystem.

This more agile and easily configurable approach ultimately gives the university a lot more freedom and flexibility, allowing software to be upgraded and updated regularly. Perhaps more importantly, it means that the IT ecosystem can be configured to take into account any new software developments by both Microsoft, as well as third party vendors that will benefit the whole system and therefore the business processes of the university.  Any managed IP solutions that Crimson does offer are not restrictive compared with its competitors.  This is because the company uses Microsoft platforms and systems that have been specifically designed with agility in mind –  as an examples, the very nature of Microsoft cloud application makes low-code and no-code development much easier today, negating the need for large pieces of solution vendor IP.

By ensuring that IP is a key consideration in any procurement decision in terms of how it best serves the university and not the IT vendor, the IT departments of today’s universities can safeguard their investment and their internal reputation as an effective department that contributes towards meeting tough student recruitment and retention targets.  Today’s system solutions should be customer-led, they should be independent and they should give universities the confidence that they can make the most of the power of their systems, be it for the challenges of today, or those that will present themselves in the future.

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Topics: higher-education